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January 25, 2010

On the Validity of the New Calendar by Elder Philotheos Zervakos

In this piece Elder Philotheos criticizes both the Old Calendarists and New Calendarists, and distances himself from both by saying that he and his monks "do not follow calendars". Of course, Elder Philotheos was faithful to his local Church and remained in communion with the canonical Church till the end of his life, living according to the New Calendar, but always disappointed by the schism which he attributed to both the extremities of Old and New Calendarists. It is an enlightening piece and shows the great sensitivity he had for this issue. He desired to see the Greek nation unified in their Orthodoxy once again, and this led him to a position in which he saw the Church divided by schism could only be unified if both the Church and State returned to the Old Calendar. Unfortunately this has proved to be an impractical solution, especially in our days, and it may be that only a true fidelity to the canonical Church is the most practical solution to schism; and of course a bit of humility would be a positive step as well.

The monks of Longovarda do not follow calendars, they follow Christ who said "Whoever wishes to follow Me let him deny himself, carry his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). He did not say we should follow the lifeless calendar and he who believes in it and is baptized will be saved. The believer in Christ and in the Bible will be saved, not by the Old Calendar.

Many of the fanatical and zealous Old Calendarists are greatly deceived believing that without the calendar man cannot be saved. All the Saints, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and the Sanctified were not saved and performed miracles based on the calendar but on faith.

The performed Mysteries by the New Calendarists are valid, because the calendar does not perform and sanctify them, but they are performed by the Holy Spirit that the New Calendarists also invoke to sanctify them and man is saved by the true faith, of love and good works, not by calendars.... Worship which many Old Calendarists ascribe to the Old Calendar has made them time worshippers that lack true and sincere love towards God and neighbor. They lack love towards each other and even towards Old Calendarists. The impiety, the unfaithfulness, the bad polity, the ignoring of the Law of God, the divine commandments and holy traditions of most clerics and lay New Calendarists prolong the division, the schism, increase the passions, the hatred, the bad intentions, the sins, they harden the hearts of both, distance themselves from repentance and we approach, if we do not repent, perdition.

"If you do not repent", said the Lord, "you shall lose yourselves" (Luke 13:3).

All of us, we have become, with the exception of a few, a cunning generation, crooked and perverse; and to the perverse the Lord sends them to perverse ways. The cunning, like all sinners, He destroys and the Lord keeps all those that love Him. Men will not be judged nor condemned as much for the calendars as for their lack of love and good works. Let us love the Lord, let us keep His commandments and if as humans we commit a sin, let us repent that we may not be excluded from the Bridegroom Christ.

It is needful here to describe two miracles that demonstrate that the Mysteries performed by the New Calendarists are valid and that man does not live by the calendars but repentance saves him, through confession, faith, love, good works, God.

In the village of Parthenios there was a young man who was convinced by some Old Calendarists not to go to the Church, nor to go for Confession or partake of the Holy Mysteries because he would be cursed since Liturgy or the Mysteries cannot be performed under the New Calendar. All those who go to the Church are New Calendarists, they Confess, they Commune, but they are all cursed. The young man, becoming scared, distanced himself from the Church and from the Holy Communion. And to the unfortunate one it happened what Saint Cyril said of those who distance themselves from the Church and the Holy Mysteries, that they become enemies of God and friends of the devil. The compassionate God however did not leave him to perish because he was naively deceived by the Old Calendarists, so when he became sick and was approaching death, one day a crowd of demons entered his room and embracing him they told him, "We came to take you, you are ours". At the presence and sight of the vile demons the youth became frightened and loudly cried, "Help! Help! Send away these black ones that came to take me". Frightened the parents and the neighbors came and asked him what happened. He would however scream louder. "Throw out these black ones who came to take me away" The parents and those who run to him could not see anyone and tried to console him but he continued to tremble, to cry and to scream to throw them out.

Seeing that they could not help him at all, he told his parents, "Bring me Father Philotheos to confess me", but because they told him he was away he told them "Bring me Father Manoli". They told him, "He is a New Calendarist and you never went to the church because he was a New Calendarist and you wouldn't even greet him, how then do you now seek him?" He said, "I was wrong, I was wrong; bring him that I may confess". They called him, the Father came and he confessed. When however the Priest came, the demons went outside and stood by the door. However, when the priest read the prayer of repentance, the black and uncomely demons left crying, while some beautiful youths, very good looking, embraced him and told him, "Because you confessed yourself clean, we came to help you".

The youth stopped crying and being scared, with cries of thanksgiving, with cheerful and joyful face, he invited his parents and neighbors to come and see the brightness and beauty of those young ones, but being unworthy they could not see them. Three days later he told his parents, "Call Father Manoli tomorrow at 9:00am to come and commune me because the young ones who keep me company told me that they will take me with them. So it happened and he left happy and with good hope to the Jerusalem above.

At Syros there were two hieromonks who were spiritual fanatics and great zealots of the Old Calendar, who advised and preached the people, the Christians, not to go to the church, nor to partake of the Holy Mysteries. Instead of partaking of Communion, they would say, it is preferable to fill a glass with wine and dipping a slice of bread in it to eat it. Also, about their babies, instead of New Calendarist priests baptizing them, it would be preferable to have a swim in the sea or to fill a container with water and wash them. In fact someone much more fanatical used to say that the Communion of the New Calendarists, he would place on the floor and step on it, while mouthing a rude word.

They had between them such hatred, envy and maliciousness that they would do nothing else but go to the people, acquaintances and strangers alike and accuse one another, with horrible accusations and slander. There was such a great scandal in the town of Syros.

Some sensible and God fearing people begged me to intervene and pacify them. I tried to convince them as Christians and especially as hieromonks and spiritual people to repent, to discuss, to expel the malice and enmity that they may not die in enmity. But it proved impossible. One of them, after many examples and teachings from the Bible, I managed to convince him that they should forgive each other. The other one proved impossible, so I told him, "If you do not forgive him then do not perform the Liturgy, for Christ says: 'First make peace with your enemy and then offer your gift or sacrifice'. He however told me: "I shall perform the Liturgy ....". But instead of performing the Liturgy, a few days later when I told him not to perform the Liturgy, he took a knife and went to kill the nephew of the industrialist, for he believed that he stole his money. However, because the policeman locked him up for a few days and warned him not to disturb his nephew anymore otherwise he would punish him, he went, like another Judas, and took rope which he tied to a rock and tried to drown himself. Luckily, at that moment a woman who saw him, called others who then untied him and saved him. But because of his mental state he was locked up in a mental asylum. When he was approaching death, the priest went to commune him but found him eating his waste! Thus he died uncommuned, he who was saying that he would place the Communion of the New Calendarists on the floor and step on it and plaster it with waste. When he was exhumed his body was incorrupt and black, it stunk foul, his mouth was open and his tongue hung outside his mouth. These were the achievements of fanatical Old Calendarists, who expelled love while holding tight to the Old Calendar not to lose it.

If I had to enumerate the deceits and heresies the Old Calendarists fell into after the introduction of the New Ecclesiastical Calendar (eortologion), time would not be enough. Short of re-Baptism and re-Chrismation, some would not dare enter the churches of New Calendar Christians, would not venerate the sacred icons and even while passing outside the churches would not bother to cross themselves, saying that these churches are Latinized and the icons are polluted. And when the bells chimed on the feast of a Saint, some Old Calendarists would say that it was a feast of Latin Saints. A certain Old Calendarist nun from a convent in Tinos, while passing by the open doors of the Church of the Great Paraskevi and seeing the crucified Christ in the middle of the Church, turned her back to Christ. When another Old Calendarist nun questioned her why she was not ashamed, she answered with impudence and disrespect saying: "That Christ is not ours, He belongs to the Latins". Enough I do not wish to say any more, but just to add, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do" (nor what they say).

This I write, so that you not be deceived and that you do not believe I say these to defend the New Calendar. From the beginning I was, is and shall be against the thoughtless, anti-canonical and illegal introduction of the New Calendar. I struggled, struggle and shall struggle to the end for the return of the Old Calendar, not because I consider that the calendar is what will save me. "I struggle for the solidarity, the unity and peace of the Church" without which both nation and Church will sink....

[From "Unpublished Letters on the Issue of the Calendar" by Archim. Philotheos Zervakos.]